Thursday, November 21, 2019

On The Enneagram, Doing Things the Hard Way, and Eliminating Hurry

Hey Internet. Sorry it's been so long. There's a lot of exciting stuff going on here, but for today I'm going to share some of the things I've learned the hard way.

I've probably mentioned this before, but I'm kind of obsessed with personality typing systems, particularly the Enneagram. If you're not familiar with this one, it's a system of nine types, all of which connect or overlap in some way. While the Myers Briggs system focuses on how people think and process information, the Enneagram is more interesting to me because it delves into what actually motivates us.

So, it should come as no surprise that I am a Three on the Enneagram. "The Achiever." We are known for our ability to accomplish whatever we set our minds to. We are extremely performance-driven and tend to get more done in a day than most people get done in a week. To see what a typical day in my life looks like, check out this fun little video I put together this past August:

There are plenty of downfalls to being an "Achiever". It's typical for Threes to cut corners for the sake of efficiency. We are less likely to do something perfectly (that's more the job of a type One...) if it's going to take too much time or effort. That's where this post comes in (I could talk about the Enneagram all day, but this is, after all, a blog about art).  I'm sharing some of my mistakes--i.e. lessons learned the hard way--so that you can avoid making the same ones.

For starters, here's just an abbreviated list of ways I've cut corners due to my chronic lack of patience (and I suffered the consequences later):

- Stretching and preparing a canvas without making it perfectly square, painting a masterpiece on it (I say this tongue-in-cheek), then having to manually chisel the inside of the frame for it to fit. Not only is this annoying and messy, but it's dangerous (employing knifes and wood carving tools)... and takes way more time than making that darn canvas square in the first place. I don't recommend.

- Not waiting long enough for the primer to dry and risking cracking, plus tackiness while working. Friends, if you're going to prime your own canvases, make sure they are completely cured before you paint on them. I was in such a hurry to start on a project one time that I disregarded the obvious tackiness of the primer and dove in anyway. I ended up having to scrape off what was going to be a decent painting, because the paint was actually lifting up some of the under layers of primer. Yuck.

- Not letting a painting sit long enough for me to notice what's wrong with it before posting to social media or selling it. This is probably my best (worst?) example of being in a hurry... I want the painting to be done and move on to the next thing. But I'm learning that the best thing I can do for my art is to let it live in my studio for a while after it's "finished", in order to make small (or sometimes big) changes that will make it a better painting. Instagram can wait.

- Trying to spray a painting with retouch varnish when it's not quite dry to the touch. The paint will start to run or bleed into surrounding areas, especially if it's a slower-drying color, like titanium white or cadmium red. Whoops. I wasn't going for that "glow" effect.

- Overestimating my time to meet deadlines, or my skill set for certain projects. This leads to work that is rushed, or worse - disappointing a client because I couldn't make a deadline.

I'm writing this to continually remind myself of my chosen word for the year: patience. Ann Voskamp, whose blog I greatly enjoy, recently challenged her readers to make the most of the last 60 days of the year. I was moved by this reminder to live a wholehearted life of gratitude and being fully present. Her next post was about "How Love is Incompatible with Hurry," an excerpt from a brand new book by John Mark Comer called "The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry." Naturally, I bought the book immediately. It is changing my life, especially this little phrase: "Hurry and love are oil and water: they simply do not mix."

All things worth doing should be done with excellence and undivided attention. This is so hard for us in this day and age. It's hard for me when I have two small children constantly tugging at my sleeve. But during those golden moments when I am in the studio, brushes in hand, I am called to give nothing less than my best. My art should be made with love.  And nothing can be done in a hurry that is also done in love.

That said: here's a recent painting that I gave plenty of time and patience to. I let it sit and breathe, and speak to me. I worked on other things during moments of silence. And if you look at the subjects... well, they simply had to be painted out of love.

"Morning Light" - 18x36" - oil on linen (2019)


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